Fire Fighting Agreement Reached
After a year of study and negotiation, the Comox Valley Regional District signed a fire service agreement with Oyster River Volunteer Fire Department to take Mount Washington Alpine Resort within their boundaries. They also had proposals from Courtenay and Cumberland fire departments.
“For us, it’s the right thing to do,” said Oyster River VFD Chief Bruce Green. “We already had members that were up there, so we’re supporting our members.”
Fiscally, the CVRD is running the service and Oyster River VFD is within the CVRD so it made sense.
“At the end of the day, all we want to do is help out to the best of our ability. That’s why we’re there,” Green said.
In the past, Mount Washington was not contained in any fire department’s jurisdiction: Courtenay Fire Dept. would respond until they knew human life was not a threat, then any building would be left to the fire’s mercy.
Having an agreement with Oyster River VFD means they will be dispatched from their hall in Oyster River to respond to a fire call for Mount Washington, and they will stay until the fire is out.
“Our members will respond to the fire hall and bring one of our resources, and use equipment up there to fight whatever fire,” Green explained.
Response time is about 35 minutes. “The one fire we had it was 35 minutes. In winter that’s going to change,” he said.
Four Mount Washington residents are training with the Oyster River VFD: two of them were already members who owned chalets up the mountain, and another one joined as soon as they knew that Oyster River had the fire service agreement at the Resort. “We just took on a new one,” Green said.
Firefighters have had a year - including one full snow season - to learn the ropes. The only fire they responded to was on a man lift. “Bystanders basically had the fire out before we got up there,” Green said.
That particular fire happened during the summer, when the weather was hot and sunny, and it was small.
“Firefighting in winter is different,” said Green. “For us it’s knowing the area and learning how to fight fires in the snow. For example in summer you would put up a ladder and go on the roof to fight a fire.
“How can you place a ladder when there is eight feet of snow? Those are the challenges we’re learning as we go.”
Although regular Wednesday night practices are usually at the fire hall, the crew has practiced at Mount Washington at least twice a month. They’ve learned to use the hydrants while they have “snorkels” attached to the top, so they can find and use them in deep snow.
The Mount Washington crew has a utility vehicle with a wagon attached that has fire fighting equipment to hook up to the hydrants.
They have secure storage for their equipment. In the summertime the Resort’s fire engine is stored in the maintenance yard.
For now, Mount Washington’s firefighters will continue to be part of Oyster River VFD. They are always looking for more volunteers.
The long-range goal is to have people who live on the mountain train on the mountain so they don’t have to come down to the fire hall all the time.
“We’re always looking for volunteers because for this service to be what the residents want and desire we need people to step up and volunteer,” Green said.
“Having this equipment is nice but it doesn’t mean anything if you have no one to run it.”
“The only thing the fire department is expecting from people is their time. All other expenses are covered.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Oyster River VFD can e-mail Green at email@example.com or phone the fire hall at 250-337-8121.